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Park, Morgantown Girls To Square Off at State

OVAC rivals will play for fourth time

Photo by Cody Tomer Wheeling Park senior Maggie Stakem and the Patriots are looking to start the state tournament in Charleston with a win over OVAC rival Morgantown on Thursday.

CHARLESTON — When it comes to rivalries in girls basketball in the state of West Virginia, one could argue the title for best at the moment belongs to Wheeling Park and Morgantown.

And tonight, will add another chapter to that rivalry. For the fourth time this year, the Patriots and Mohigans will face off. This time, though will be in Charleston during the West Virginia Class AAAA quarterfinals. Tipoff is slated for 9 p.m.

“It’s crazy that we’re playing again,” Wheeling Park coach Ryan Young said. “I think there’s different ways to look at it. With them beating us the last couple of times, I feel good about going into this game just because it’s such an even matchup. I do think it also kind of takes away the kind of awe the kids have when they go in Civic Center because they’re playing somebody they’re familiar with. I think we can use that to our advantage and hopefully just focus on playing basketball because we know our opponent.”

Wheeling Park got the upperhand in the first matchup of the season on March 18 in a 52-50 thriller. However, Morgantown came out on top in the next two games. On March 30, the Mohigans avenged their loss in a 55-41 victory followed by a 42-31 win on April 16 in the Class AAAA Region One, Section One championship.

“I think in all three games, we were in control at some point in the game, even late in the game,” Young said. “Even though you would look at the one at our place without Bella (Abernathy), we lost by 14, but we actually had a two or three-point lead in the third quarter. We just have to stay composed. I think they’ve outplayed us later in the games. For us, that shouldn’t happen. We’re a pretty senior-oriented team. Even the kids that aren’t seniors have a lot of experience. But hopefully we’ve learned from it. We’ve talked about it as a team and we know what we need to do to fix the problems. Hopefully, execute on Thursday.”

Abernathy fractured her finger in late March and missed a handful of games. At first, it was thought the senior was done for the year. However, with a positive mindset, she believed she was able to return to the court. And she did just that.

She scored 13 points in the regional co-final victory against University. The senior has also averaged 18.5 points a game this year along with grabbing eight rebounds.

Lindsey Garrison is the leading scorer for the Patriots as she has turned in 19.2 ppg. She has cashed in on 48 3-pointers and set a school record this year with 12 in a game.

Asia Roby has been solid in every aspect in scoring 8.6 points while dishing out 5.1 assists and tallying 2.4 steals per outing.

One thing that has stood out about the first three outings between the OVAC schools are the rather low-scoring affairs.

Wheeling Park has scored at least 60 points in 10 games this season while the Mohigans have hit that point total five times.

With great defenses and Morgantown slowing down the tempo a bit, it held Wheeling Park to its season-low in points the past two outings (42 and 31).

“I think both of our programs are defensive-minded programs, and both coaching staffs do a great job of teaching defense to their team” Morgantown coach Jason White said. “I think myself and Coach Young take a lot of pride in trying to prepare our kids and have them ready for the game and know what our opponents are doing. You know going into the game, it’s going to be a challenge to score. Each team knows the strengths of the other team’s personnel. I have a lot of respect for Coach Young and his staff.”

The Mohigans return to Charleston after falling in the quarterfinals last year. Morgantown was one of the few teams that completed a game in the state tournament before it being canceled due to the coronavirus.

It returns a plethora of talent, most notably, Kaitlyn Ammons. The DePaul University commit is averaging 17 points per game along with grabbing 7.6 boards. Ammons is also shooting 61.7% from the floor.

Lindsay Bechtel (7.5) and Cat Wassick (7.2) are scoring just over seven points a game for the Mohigans.

“I think that’s their game plan,” Young said about the low-scoring games. “They want to put us in a slower game and use their athleticism to their advantage, which at the defensive end, they’ve created problems for us. I think it’s a combination of things. They’ve played really well on the defensive end. You have to give them credit.

“But we’ve looked at film and we see things that we need to do better as a team. I think we’ll be able to do that on Thursday. I think it’s also a matter of we’ve been in and out as far as some of the players health-wise. Hopefully, this is getting to the point when we get there Thursday, it might be the healthiest we’ve been all year. So, we kind of use that to our advantage as well.”

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